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Best Things To Do in Reykjavik

Reykjavik is filled with things to do that range from the usual suspects (museums like the National Museum of Iceland and The Settlement Exhibition) to more uncommon attractions like geothermal spas at the nearby Blue Lagoon. There's also shopping in the form of markets, open-air districts and malls, as well as natural wonders galore like the Golden Circle's Gullfoss (Golden Falls) and Thingvellir National Park. On a clear, sunny day, stroll alongside Reykjavik's Old Harbor to snap photos of the surrounding mountains, the Sun Voyager statue and the Harpa concert hall. Finally, wrap up your day in one of the bars and clubs clustered around Laugavegur.

How we rank Things to Do.

#1

#1 in Reykjavik

Free
The aurora borealis (or northern lights) can be an almost eerie sight: Picture emerald green swirls coloring the otherwise darkened sky. But scientists have a boring explanation for this phenomenal natural light show – "collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the Earth's atmosphere," according to the Northern Lights Centre. Still, it's a pretty breathtaking sight, and if you're visiting Reykjavik in winter, you might want to stake out some time for northern lights gazing.
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Natural Wonders Type
Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights)
The aurora borealis (or northern lights) can be an almost eerie sight: Picture emerald green swirls coloring the otherwise darkened sky. But scientists have a boring explanation for this phenomenal natural light show – "collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the Earth's atmosphere," according to the Northern Lights Centre. Still, it's a pretty breathtaking sight, and if you're visiting Reykjavik in winter, you might want to stake out some time for northern lights gazing.
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#2

#2 in Reykjavik

Free
The Golden Circle is a very popular, 190-mile-long tourist route that runs by Thingvellir National Park; the 105-foot dual cascading waterfall Gullfoss (Golden Falls); and the geothermal Haukadalur valley's Strokkur, a geyser that gushes water 60 to 100 feet into the air every five minutes; among other attractions.
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Natural Wonders Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is a very popular, 190-mile-long tourist route that runs by Thingvellir National Park; the 105-foot dual cascading waterfall Gullfoss (Golden Falls); and the geothermal Haukadalur valley's Strokkur, a geyser that gushes water 60 to 100 feet into the air every five minutes; among other attractions.
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#3

#3 in Reykjavik

Free
You'll find many sculptures scattered throughout Reykjavik, but for panoramic vistas and a look at one of the city's most iconic pieces, walk along the waterfront to the Sun Voyager (known locally as Sólfar). This steel sculpture, which was designed by Jon Gunnar Arnason, mimics a Viking ship and pays homage to the sun. Its location also boasts picturesque views of Mount Esja, a sprawling mountain filled with hiking trails.
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Sightseeing Type
Less than 1 hour Time to Spend
Sun Voyager (Sólfar)
You'll find many sculptures scattered throughout Reykjavik, but for panoramic vistas and a look at one of the city's most iconic pieces, walk along the waterfront to the Sun Voyager (known locally as Sólfar). This steel sculpture, which was designed by Jon Gunnar Arnason, mimics a Viking ship and pays homage to the sun. Its location also boasts picturesque views of Mount Esja, a sprawling mountain filled with hiking trails.
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#4

#4 in Reykjavik

Free
If you have a limited itinerary, you'll want to prioritize seeing the Golden Circle. But if you're staying in Iceland for multiple days, a trek throughout South Iceland is a must, according to recent travelers. This region, which is south and east of Reykjavik, boasts towering volcanoes, expansive glaciers, gushing waterfalls, ample farmland and a black-sand beach. You may even pass Icelandic horses or spot puffins while traveling around the area.
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Beaches Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
South Iceland
If you have a limited itinerary, you'll want to prioritize seeing the Golden Circle. But if you're staying in Iceland for multiple days, a trek throughout South Iceland is a must, according to recent travelers. This region, which is south and east of Reykjavik, boasts towering volcanoes, expansive glaciers, gushing waterfalls, ample farmland and a black-sand beach. You may even pass Icelandic horses or spot puffins while traveling around the area.
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#5

#5 in Reykjavik

About 30 miles southwest of Reykjavik, Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland's most popular tourist attractions. This geothermal mineral spa gives off an almost otherworldly look with azure-colored water and steam rising from its surface. The lagoon receives more than 700,000 annual visitors. For a little perspective, that's double the country's entire population.
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Natural Wonders Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Blue Lagoon
About 30 miles southwest of Reykjavik, Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland's most popular tourist attractions. This geothermal mineral spa gives off an almost otherworldly look with azure-colored water and steam rising from its surface. The lagoon receives more than 700,000 annual visitors. For a little perspective, that's double the country's entire population.
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#6

#6 in Reykjavik

Free
Iceland's tallest and largest church is also its most photographed site. Named after 17th-century hymn writer and church scholar Reverend Hallgrímur Pétursson, this church took nearly 50 years to complete, with construction on it starting in 1945. The shape of the futuristic structure is a cross between a glacier and a rocket ship.
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Churches/Religious Sites Type
Less than 1 hour Time to Spend
Hallgrímur's Church (Hallgrímskirkja)
Iceland's tallest and largest church is also its most photographed site. Named after 17th-century hymn writer and church scholar Reverend Hallgrímur Pétursson, this church took nearly 50 years to complete, with construction on it starting in 1945. The shape of the futuristic structure is a cross between a glacier and a rocket ship.
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#7

#7 in Reykjavik

Free
For open-air shopping, stroll along Laugavegur. This shopping-centric street is filled with boutiques selling souvenirs, clothing and specialty foods like local cheeses and meats. Additionally, you'll find an array of restaurants that serve everything from Icelandic to Italian to sushi.
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Cafes Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Laugavegur
For open-air shopping, stroll along Laugavegur. This shopping-centric street is filled with boutiques selling souvenirs, clothing and specialty foods like local cheeses and meats. Additionally, you'll find an array of restaurants that serve everything from Icelandic to Italian to sushi.
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#8
Harpa Free

#8 in Reykjavik

Free
One of Reykjavik's easiest structures to recognize is its concert hall and conference center, Harpa. Situated at the western end of the Sculpture and Shore Walk, Harpa's modern design regularly woos vacationers and architecture buffs alike. In fact, the window-centric building has won numerous design accolades, including the 2013 European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award and the Gramophone Magazine World Architecture Award 2010. The performing arts venue also hosts an array of events, from symphony shows and comedic acts to the Reykjavik Jazz Festival.
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Entertainment and Nightlife Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Harpa
One of Reykjavik's easiest structures to recognize is its concert hall and conference center, Harpa. Situated at the western end of the Sculpture and Shore Walk, Harpa's modern design regularly woos vacationers and architecture buffs alike. In fact, the window-centric building has won numerous design accolades, including the 2013 European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award and the Gramophone Magazine World Architecture Award 2010. The performing arts venue also hosts an array of events, from symphony shows and comedic acts to the Reykjavik Jazz Festival.
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#9

#9 in Reykjavik

This interactive museum tells the history of Iceland, beginning with its pagan rituals and ending with contemporary fashion. Along the way, you'll "meet" a medieval chief and a 14th-century nun, among others, and you can hear about their life experiences via a one-way telephone conversation.
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Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
National Museum of Iceland
This interactive museum tells the history of Iceland, beginning with its pagan rituals and ending with contemporary fashion. Along the way, you'll "meet" a medieval chief and a 14th-century nun, among others, and you can hear about their life experiences via a one-way telephone conversation.
... more

#10

#10 in Reykjavik

As its name implies, The Settlement Exhibition gives visitors a chance to learn more about Reykjavik's first settlers. The museum's main exhibit is an excavation site, which features the remains of a hall inhabited between A.D. 930 and 1000. Travelers can also learn more about how early Icelandic homes were constructed and see Viking artifacts found throughout Reykjavik and on the island of Videy.
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Museums Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
The Settlement Exhibition
As its name implies, The Settlement Exhibition gives visitors a chance to learn more about Reykjavik's first settlers. The museum's main exhibit is an excavation site, which features the remains of a hall inhabited between A.D. 930 and 1000. Travelers can also learn more about how early Icelandic homes were constructed and see Viking artifacts found throughout Reykjavik and on the island of Videy.
... more

#11

#11 in Reykjavik

For a glimpse at what life was like in 19th- and 20th-century Iceland, visit the Árbaer Open Air Museum. This open-air attraction features more than 20 buildings that were originally located in central Reykjavik, plus exhibits about toys, the history of painting houses, early building techniques and more.
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Museums Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Árbaer Open Air Museum
For a glimpse at what life was like in 19th- and 20th-century Iceland, visit the Árbaer Open Air Museum. This open-air attraction features more than 20 buildings that were originally located in central Reykjavik, plus exhibits about toys, the history of painting houses, early building techniques and more.
... more
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